James 1&2

How to Deny Self

With the Gospel spreading to the Gentiles, and Saul who was once an enemy of the Church but now was preaching the Gospel, the Church is moving into uncharted territory. Personally, I like to know where I am going and be in control. When God challenges me in this I often think of it as a trial I am going through. In our last study we talked of denying ourselves our old ingrained beliefs and following Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I find that this is easier said than done. I think that is why Jesus said that we need to take up our cross and follow Him.  The book of James addresses this issue.

The Book of James is considered the earliest epistle written sometime before 50 AD. James was the half-brother of Jesus. Back in Chapter 7 of the Book of John we read that he did not believe in Jesus. Apparently, after Jesus was crucified, that all changed and James is serious about his faith and writes a no holds barred letter.

The theme of these first two chapters is faith. In the first 4 verses of Chapter 1 James makes it clear that trials test our faith and their purpose is to develop and strengthen us. Faith is the key to denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ. In verse 6 James says that if we need wisdom we can ask for wisdom but we must ask in faith. He also says that a double minded man should not expect anything. So, what does he mean by being double minded.

What we do is a reflection of what we really believe. We might say we believe in Jesus but our actions may well be saying we really don’t believe in Jesus or we really don’t understand what believing in Jesus really means.

Years ago I planted several fruit trees in the field next to our house. One of my favorite trees was a peach tree. It grew and produced great tasting fruit.  A few years back something happened to it. No longer did it produce fruit. In fact, it didn’t even leaf out in the spring. It was a good solid tree but it had died. Now, I left it there in the ground for years. I would say I had a peach tree, and that was true but the tree was dead and that is the point James is making here in Chapter 2:26.

We might say we have faith but it could be dead or misplaced.

Our works are not a means to faith any more than my declaring I have a peach tree, even though it is dead. Our works are a result of our faith. For us then, it is very important where, or in what, we have put our faith. Back in Luke 8:22-25 Jesus wanted to cross over to the other side of the lake. Jesus was asleep in the boat when a fierce gale came up and the disciples were afraid. Thinking they were about to die they woke Jesus up. He rebuked the wind and asked the disciples, “Where is your faith?” Verse 25

The trial of the storm showed them where their faith was but it was also preparation for what was ahead. The same is true for us. In these two chapters we read that there are several places where we might have misplaced our faith which is revealed by actions.

In verse 22 James challenges us to be doers of the word and not deceive ourselves by merely listening but not responding. That would be kind of like me saying I have a peach tree even though it had been dead for years. The trials we go through are one of the tools God uses to bring about the transformation from the old thinking and conforming our thinking to God’s plan. They are also preparation for what is coming.

Faith is the power source as John makes clear in 1 John 5:1-12

Are you going through a trial? Face it with faith in God!

Pastor Dave